St. David’s Foundation has changed the way its grants can be used because of COVID-19.


The $22,316,753 it awarded last week to 40 local nonprofit organizations can be used for administrative costs as well as emergency funding for clients, not just programs.


Organizations applied for the grants in February, but were given the option to change their requests.


"Once we began to understand the depth of the impact of the pandemic ... we directed our teams to be proactive in asking our nonprofit partners what they needed," said William Buster, the foundation’s executive vice president of community investments.


The feedback the foundation got was that Central Texas nonprofits were feeling overwhelmed and that they didn’t have the resources to address needs, Buster said.


"People talk about rainy days; it’s pouring down right now for our community," Buster said. "We have to be mindful that the need is now."


One of the grants was $250,000 to the United Way For Greater Austin’s All Together ATX fund for COVID-19 relief, in addition to two other United Way programs.


"St. David’s Foundation supports programs with real impact, and we are proud that every dollar will become food, medical care, support for those experiencing abuse, utility payments, and early childhood education for children and families in our community," said United Way for Greater Austin Chief Executive Officer David C. Smith.


Typically, St. David’s Foundation gives out grants of about $23 million to $24 million twice a year. The foundation’s money comes from the earnings of St. David’s HealthCare that are then reinvested in the community through the foundation.


This year, money set aside for capital grants also was used to create a $10 million COVID-19 Recovery Fund. The foundation gave $3.5 million of that in June. Applications for the second phase of that grant begin July 20 and end Aug. 13. It expects to distribute $4 million in this round.


SAFE Alliance received $125,000 from the first round of COVID-19 Recovery Fund. That ensured that it could continue to pay staff at its children’s and family shelters and other direct service staff, said Piper Stege Nelson, chief public strategies officer at SAFE Alliance.


From April through June, SAFE has seen a one-third increase in calls, chats and texts to its hotline compared with that period in 2019, she said.


"We see stress in families facing economic hardships and increased isolation at home," she said. "And we see sadness in kids living in our Children’s Shelter, unable to leave the facility and uncertain about their future. Which is why our doors remain open, and why we are so grateful for these additional St. David’s funds during this uncertain time."


St. David’s Foundation also allowed organizations who had been given fall 2019 grants to use those funds differently. Organizations turned money set aside for programs into rental assistance and buying food for the clients they serve.


The grants also allow the organizations to employ staff as they are waiting for clients to return to the in-person programs they provide or shift those programs to fit the current climate.


Boys and Girls Club of East Williamson County was able to change the way it used its funding to create 10-hour-a-day care in Taylor for children of essential workers such as those employed by the police, city water and grocery stores.


The money for the club, which opened last fall, "allowed us to keep our doors open in an environment when the world is not normal," said Daniel Hall, vice president of resource development for Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Texas. "The slap in the face of the halt of COVID-19 killed all our fundraising streams. St. David’s flexibility allowed us to serve our kids, where they are and where they need us."


Every few years, St. David’s Foundation does strategic planning, including talking to key people in the community and doing a health needs assessment to create its priority areas. Currently those areas are children; the health of women and girls; older adults; rural communities; and turning clinics into community health hubs.


The coronavirus pandemic also has pushed health equity to the forefront and made it a top priority for the foundation, Buster said.


"One thing is becoming clear to us, what COVID-19 has laid bare is some of the health inequalities ... we have been given real-time data about how big the discrepancies are," he said.


One of the foundation’s goals with the COVID-19 Recovery Fund is for half of those funds to be distributed to organizations, especially in rural Central Texas, that the foundation wasn’t reaching before.


"If there’s anything that is good that has come out of the response to the pandemic ... we are now being exposed to organizations that we never knew existed that are now on our radar," Buster said.